© Mengo Yokoyari/SQUARE ENIX, Scum’s Wish Production Committee

Ever since childhood, we are told that being loved is a good thing. By our family, by our friends, by our peers. “Love” is a positive emotion. However, as we get older, we come to realize that love is not one-sided—love comes with the burden of responsibility.

In Scum’s Wish, the main premise is that a majority of the characters pine after someone they can’t have. Best friend Sanae loves high school protagonist Hanabi, who loves her teacher Mr. Kanai, who loves his fellow teacher Ms. Minagawa, who is loved by Mugi, who is loved by his childhood friend Noriko. It’s not a love triangle—it’s more like a love web.

© Mengo Yokoyari/SQUARE ENIX, Scum’s Wish Production Committee

In the case of Sanae, a lesbian who has feelings for her best friend, she accepts not being Hanabi’s true love as long as she can be close to her physically and emotionally. While Hanabi is dating Mugi for the emotional benefits, she knows that he does not love her, making Sanae’s offer of being together even just for one night very tempting.

However, Hanabi soon realizes that making Sanae feel hope for their relationship has had severe consequences. By making Sanae believe that she has a chance, Hanabi is unable to escape from her advances. She knows that turning her down completely will hurt Sanae, her best friend, but at the same time, she is not able to respond to her feelings.

“There isn’t anything more disgusting than someone you don’t have interest in having affections for you, am I right?” Hanabi once said.

I discussed this scene with my friend.

“Why would the person being loved by someone feel stressed out?” she asked me.

Image Source: アニメ『クズの本懐』公式@放送中 on Twitter

When someone has affections for another, they have expectations. In order to be liked by their beloved, some might do nice things and favors for that person. Even if they may deny it, they are hoping for something in return, whether that be as indecent as sex or as pure as a romantic relationship. In some ways, the latter is the most painful of the two. If the one being pursued is nice to the enamored, they will have hope. If the pursued ignores them, they hurt them.

And this is exactly what Hanabi is going through in Scum’s Wish. Because she gave Sanae hope that there was a chance that they might get together, she now has to deal with her delicate feelings; be nice and give false hope or be standoffish and lose her best friend. At this point, Hanabi cannot escape. It’s such a real situation that it’s painful–almost suffocating–to watch as Sanae continues to make more and more bold approaches, now unable to separate herself from her best friend/love interest after having a taste of her affection. Scum’s Wish portrayal of the issue of emotional responsibility is scarily realistic.

And now, Hanabi has to take responsibility for her actions. While she gained temporary satisfaction from accepting her best friend’s feelings for a one-day fling, she also took on an emotional burden that she will have to hold as long as Sanae’s feelings don’t fizzle out or Hanabi pushes Sanae away completely. And why would she push her away? After all, the only thing scarier than responsibility is being hated.

Hanabi’s words possibly express the weight of this responsibility of another person’s feelings the best:

“I never knew that a person’s affections were so heavy.”

Scum’s Wish is streaming on Amazon’s Anime Strike channel with English subtitles, as well as on Amazon’s Prime Video service in the United Kingdom.

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